Friday, 30 January 2015

Our day in Almeria including visiting an Indiana Jones location

Courtyard at the School Of Arts 
We were up and out pretty early (by our standards) yesterday because we had planned to visit the city of Almeria which is only a twenty minute drive from Camping Roquetas. Almeria is a compact city, easy to walk around and with lots of interesting building styles, sculptures and boutique shops. We had done a little research and were armed with a shortlist of four sights for our first visit. We managed to get to three of the four.

Firstly, having parked under the Consum supermarket by the port - a bit pricey, but convenient - we were perfectly placed to wonder at the English Cable which is a huge metal construction at the end of a lengthy high stone viaduct. It was originally used for trains so they could deliver iron ore directly to ships in the port. We are not sure whether it is still in operation or not, but it is in excellent condition so possibly so. A little along from here and so blended in that we didn't spot it until the end of our day, is a memorial to Almerian people who died at the Mauthausen concentration camp. A simple and sobering design, the memorial consists of a central statue surrounded by dozens of cylindrical stone columns, one for each person.

A stroll through a promenade park took us to the beginnings of the shopping centre and lots of streets packed each side with interesting independent shops. There are some recognisable High Street names along the wide central road, but I liked that most of Almeria still seems to be independents. I think a town has a far stronger individual identity that way. Hidden amongst these streets, around the back of the Cervantes Theatre, is the School Of Arts whose courtyard was featured during the Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade film. The photo above was taken inside. Recognise it? It turns out that this is actually our second 'famous' movie location of the trip so far. The beach we sat upon for our January picnic was taken over during filming of the 1972 Treasure Island film. There's some great then-and-now photos on this website.

Back to Almeria, and I liked this wall created of empty thread cones on
Cone wall at the School Of Arts 
sticks, also in the School Of Arts. It is real school so we couldn't wander round much, but we did spot earnest students carving furniture because their door was open. Close by the School Of Arts is another free-to-enter site, the 11th century Jayran Arab Reservoirs. It's only a small place, underground and beautifully cool on a hot day. The water for the Arab city was brought from several kilometres away and stored in the brick-built reservoir before being piped out to taps and fountains for the people. The acoustics are fantastic and the halls are now used for a regular Flamenco Club. The Club recently celebrated its 50th anniversary so a display of photographs lines the walls. We asked about seeing a performance there, but the Club is private so we couldn't just turn up.

We had arranged to meet Chris and Marta for lunch at famed tapas bar, Casa Puga, but were delayed by a gorgeous shop, Secretos De India. They have a fantastic selection of clothing, homewares and rugs. Also, the windows were emblazoned with 'Rebajas' which is a very important word when shopping in Spain - it means Reductions! I am now the proud owner of a delicately painted box for my teas and an incredibly comfortable pair of palazzo pants. And we weren't even too late for lunch!

Casa Puga is an institution that we read about in the local free paper, Euro Weekly News. It is under threat of closure due to its protected rents losing their protection so it may no longer be economically viable. It was packed with diners and drinkers and had a bustling atmosphere. The food was nicely cooked and tasty.

The afternoon saw us heading upwards - always upwards! - to the Alcazabar, a partially restored Moorish palace overlooking Almeria. There are tranquil gardens and great views from the walls. Whilst we were all looking out, a flock of painted pigeons were being released from their coops on a rooftop. They looked fantastic flying around - all reds, pinks, yellows and oranges. I tried to get photos but they were to fast and distant for my phone to see clearly. The Alcazabar stretches over a significant area and is in three main sections, the third being where later Christians plonked their castle. One room at the far corner has metal cannon on show and also amazing echo acoustics. I think it might be due to its double arched ceiling, but we all had great fun making sounds and hearing them reverberate. The locals living below must get really fed up with tourists making a racket there! A few enclosed rooms have exhibitions of found artifacts and of a scale model of the site, but there isn't a lot of information about what we could see. The site has been restored more than that of Sagunt, but it would have been nice to know what rooms were for and during what periods they had been occupied.

Having left the Alcazaba and paused for a coffee and chocolate doughnut, we considered taking in the modern art museum, but all four of us were pretty shattered by this point. It's hard work having fun! So we still have the art for our return visit and also the Cinema museum which was the one on our list that we hadn't made it too. Hopefully we will go again sometime in this coming week.

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